South Dakota’s Dr. Annette Bosworth reminds me of Egypt’s Ayman Nour.
Mr. Nour founded the El Ghad party and back in 2005 became the first person to challenge then Egyptian President (read: dictator) Hosni Mubarak. Just months after losing badly to Mubarak in a rigged election, Nour was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to five years in prison by Egyptian authorities for allegedly forging voter signatures on petitions to initially qualify his political party for the ballot.
Nour served more than three years of that sentence before being released for medical reasons in 2009, leaving Egypt for treatment in Lebanon.
His prosecution served what purpose?
Annette Bosworth, a medical doctor and political neophyte, ran for the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. Senate last year in South Dakota in a crowded field, which included former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds, the ultimate victor. But after her long-shot bid failed, South Dakota authorities didn’t wait months. Bosworth was indicted and arrested the very next day after the election on twelve counts of election fraud and perjury.
She now awaits a Feb. 1 trial, facing not five years in the hoosegow, but an incredible 24. And also, not insignificantly, the loss of her medical license if convicted of a single felony count.
Though I suspect not, Mr. Nour may have been guilty of forging those signatures, or by some Egyptian law held legally responsible. Regardless, any caring, freedom-loving person sees the injustice, the punishment that couldn’t possibly fit the crime, and that such persecution inflicts a much more serious crime against freedom, good government and common decency.
Dr. Bosworth is accused of falsely signing as the person who circulated six petition sheets containing 37 signatures, which according to South Dakota Attorney General Marty J. Jackley constitutes six separate charges of election fraud and six counts of perjury, each carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. From the beginning of this controversy, Annette Bosworth has fully and forthrightly admitted that some of the 37 people who signed these six petitions did not do so in her presence.
A-ha! Guilty! Bring on the guillotine!
But first, let’s at least consider the circumstances of the “crime.” It’s worth noting that the 37 signatures in question have all been verified to be those of duly registered South Dakota voters, who indeed wished to see Dr. Bosworth on the ballot.
And her campaign had far more verified signatures than required.
“So, you have a woman who’s facing 24 years in prison for legitimate signatures,” explains investigative journalist and filmmaker Lee Stranahan, a protégé of the late Andrew Breitbart. “But the political fix was in here.”
In addition to other efforts, Annette Bosworth circulated her candidate petitions at her medical office. Virtually all of the now-controversial 37 signers are people she knows; they are mostly patients. One is her sister.
However, during the petition drive, disaster struck. Not for Bosworth, personally, or her petition drive or her medical practice. The problem was a typhoon, one of the worst in recorded history, which devastated the Philippines, killing more than 5,000 people and injuring scores more.
Dr. Bosworth decided she had to go halfway across the world to help people in need. It wasn’t her first time.
While she was gone, folks, including her sister, continued to sign the petitions at her office. That’s a no-no. Circulators must sign an affidavit on the petition stating that all the signatures placed thereupon were so affixed in their presence.
After her return, as the petitions were due, the doctor first confronted the affidavit, and wisely asked the campaign’s attorney if she needed to have people who signed while she was gone re-sign the petition. The correct legal answer is yes. He said no. She unfortunately signed those six petitions.
Rules should be followed, but not every rule violation makes sense to prosecute — especially in arbitrary and vindictive fashion.
Still, Attorney General Jackley insists Dr. Bosworth’s crimes are “serious, deliberate and must be addressed in order to preserve the integrity of our elections.”
To which, author and former State Senator Gordon Howie begs to differ. “Let me tell you that these ‘serious and deliberate’ ‘crimes’ are COMMONPLACE in South Dakota politics. During the frenzy of political seasons, MANY (and I do mean MANY) South Dakota politicians circulate petitions and sign as circulators when they are not ‘in the room’,” he wrote for South Dakota’s The Right Side Blog. “At Lincoln Day dinners across the state, Republicans routinely send their petitions around the room. They do not personally witness each signature, but sign the ‘oath’ that they did. I would venture to say that even our Attorney General may be guilty of this practice. PLEASE, Marty, say it isn’t so . . . not even ONE?”
Mr. Howie also points out the arbitrary enforcement: “The Speaker of the House notarized his own petitions, which is a clear violation of law. No prosecution. No consequence. There are other violations of law regarding political petitions and campaigns. Most of them are simply ignored. So why the big fuss over the Bosworth petitions?”
The fuss could be multifaceted. State officials and Dr. Bosworth have tangled before, over their commitment to bureaucracy and her commitment to her mostly poor patients. The state has heretofore unsuccessfully tried to take the doctor’s medical license.
Bosworth’s husband also challenged Jackley in the last race for attorney general, joining many others in charging that corruption swirls around the AG.
And, after all, Annette was challenging Jackley’s political friend and mentor, now U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds.
Or perhaps it was her plainspoken message, which might light a fire under conservative and libertarian activists. She launched her campaign by stating, “So I can decide to stand up and run for the US Senate or watch healthcare dissolve.”
She wasn’t terribly kind to career politicians of any stripe. “As the net worth of our politicians grows, our nation grows sicker and sicker,” she argued. “We’re losing our country, while politicians get rich.”
She labeled her campaign a chance to “turn the tide on corruption.”
Now, for her trouble, she faces jail, fines, and the destruction of her career.
“This is not Jacklanistan,” Mr. Stranahan fumes about AG Jackley’s persecution of Bosworth. “This is South Dakota. This is America. And what’s going on up here is simply wrong.”
“The reasonable thing to do in the Bosworth case would seem to be a misdemeanor charge with a penalty and no felony charges,” Howie reasonably suggests. “That would be a win-win situation. Bosworth accepts a reasonable consequence and the integrity of the election process is preserved.”
Howie also notes that Marty Jackley wants to run for governor, and that his bizarre prosecution of Dr. Bosworth might not make much sense to future voters.
Voters might want to know: what purpose did her persecution serve?
Paul Jacob, January 11, 2015
This column first appeared at Townhall.com.